World Cup 2018 opens, with a lot of intriguing predictions

The 2018 World Cup starts on Thursday with Russia vs. Saudi Arabia at 11:00 a.m. ET. A field of 32 teams will compete for the right to hoist the trophy on July 15, and Brazil enters as 7-2 favorites on the 2018 World Cup odds board, followed closely by defending champions Germany at 4-1 and France at 6-1. In order for each country to win it all in the knockout stage, they must first survive the group stage.

In addition to picking a champion, bettors can wager on who they think will top each group. For example, France is a -300 favorite to win Group C, meaning it would take a $300 wager on the French to win their group to return $100.

Before you make your picks on which teams top their respective groups at the 2018 World Cup, you need to see what European soccer expert David Sumpter has to say.

Sumpter is an applied mathematician who wrote “Soccermatics,” the book that shows how math works inside the game. Together with experienced analysts, Professor Sumpter developed the powerful Soccerbot model.

The Soccerbot reads current odds and all team performance data, calculates key metrics and predicts upcoming matches. In the 2½ seasons since it was born, the Soccerbot is up 1,800 percent on bookmakers’ closing odds. That’s right — 1,800 percent.

Now, the Soccerbot has computed each country’s true probability of winning its group at the World Cup 2018.

We can tell you Brazil has the highest probability to advance out of Group E despite losing defender Dani Alves to a knee injury. The 35-year-old, who has made 107 appearances for the Brazilian National Team, was injured while playing for PSG in the Coupe de France final.

Another team the model is all over to win its group: Argentina, which has a 59.6 percent chance of topping Group D.

Argentina is led by Lionel Messi, who has scored 61 international goals, more than anyone in Argentina’s history. Despite his individual success, Messi is still searching for his first major tournament title with Argentina. La Albiceleste have lost three successive finals, which includes the 2014 World Cup.

Croatia (25.5 percent) has the second best chance to win Group D and is certainly capable, but ultimately the star power of Argentina and Messi will be too much to overcome, the model predicts.

Sumpter’s model also says two countries with World Cup outright odds of longer than 25-1 will advance past the group stage. Anyone who backs these underdogs could hit it big.

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